I decided our kiddos had too many toys. Possibly because I don’t like having many things and I live in a constant state of purging or maybe because I’m tired of picking up every night. But really, I’ve watched them play with everything except toys these days, and in doing so I’ve seen their imaginations blossom. Just this summer we’ve discovered:
- An ice chest becomes a treasure chest to collect loot. It also makes a great bench to read books. And it makes a great sled to pull each other around.
- Couch pillows combined with bed pillows make a great pillow fort that entertains for hours. Pillows can also be counted or lined up by size and/or color. Even taking pillow cases off and on is entertainment.
- Three step stools make great stepping stones to jump on from couch to couch to avoid touching the hot lava below. They can also be stacked and unstacked endless times.
- A reusable grocery bag is great to shop for boxes and cans in the kitchen, then stack said items to make a tower. They also have different packaging shapes to identify and can be used to find letters, numbers, colors on items… so many possibilities.
- A big pot can be used to make Lego soup (or any fill-in-the-blank soup).
- Tissue can be torn up into little pieces to hide around the house, then collected by trash collectors.
- A hose. Enough said.
The kiddos in action:
I’ve kept some toys, enough to fit into eight bins that go on one bookcase in the family room, along with a few non-bin toys (I want to purge some more, it still feels like too much):
Bin 1: Legos
Bin 2: Wooden blocks / Magna-Tiles
Bin 3: Train tracks
Bin 4: Train cars
Bin 5: Hot Wheels and other small vehicles
Bin 6: Puzzles
Bin 7: Stacking cups / musical instruments
Bin 8: Miscellaneous toys: doctor kit / hair styling kit / tool kit / action figures
Non-bin toys: play kitchen (with some play food and pans), parking garage, play stroller, three big trucks, water table (outside), and a recently obtained train table next to the treadmill in the garage so they have something to play on while I run. Laine also has a few babies that have been pared down from about 15 to three (thankfully she hasn’t noticed yet) and there are a few stray stuffed animals on their beds which they have no interest in. Bath toys are now from downstairs, like the stacking cups or pans from the play kitchen. (Okay, now I really want to purge more after listing everything out.) There are also a few special toys that I pull out on occasion, like a small sandbox and the iPad. We also have a cabinet by the dining table devoted to art supplies: crayons, finger paint, stamps, construction paper, Play-Doh, etc. And of course, books. Books are the only item I’m happy to have in excess. And by excess, I mean two shelves. Which is still too many if I had my way but reading is too important to limit.
Since the recent purge, the kiddos haven’t missed anything and are playing really well with what they have. I’m convinced the more toys, not the better. From watching our two, I think too many toys limited their imaginations and creativity—they were mostly playing with the toys as they were meant to be played with before losing interest and moving on. They’ve also gained longer attention spans since there aren’t several toys to move to after a few minutes (or play by pulling out every.single.toy). And they’re not overwhelmed. With too many toys in the house, it almost felt like they didn’t always know what to play with. They also get bored, which I want. I want them to come up with ways to entertain themselves without relying on toys or me. They’re also choosing to do more art and reading over playing with toys (score!). I’ve seen the most improvement with Laine, who has never really “played” like Blaise. Blaise has always had a great attention span and focus, now it’s even better.
Less toys also makes us get out and about more. We’re active already but now we go out even more… our kids are more in touch with nature than the toy store. And it gets us more involved in the area, supporting local businesses (like farms), meeting all different kinds of people, and exploring—we’re ready to start geocaching. I recently watched the documentary Play Again and they highlighted a study where kids were shown logos without writing. Each kid was able to name companies from the logo graphic alone. Then they were shown plants/trees/birds and if I recall correctly, not one kid could name anything except for a dandelion which they mostly called a “wishing flower.” I’m determined our kids will be the exception to that study. We don’t watch commercials so they are clueless about products and brands; we are referencing our Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast and Birds of Washington Field Guide books; and we get outside almost daily for a hike, walk, park play, berry picking, treasure hunting (rocks, sticks, leaves), slug hunting (no harm is done to slugs or any living creature we find), water play (lake, stream, river), etc. Rain doesn’t stop us. We get dirty. We have fun. We learn. But most importantly, we play.